The Best And Worst Of NJPW: G1 Climax 29, Nights 9-10


Previously on NJPW: Wrestlers avoided or fell to the dreaded 0-3 and Ishii did a frog splash through a table.

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And now, the best and worst of the ninth and tenth nights of G1 Climax 29 from July 27-28, 2019, in Aichi.

Best: Monster Mash, Part 1

Kota Ibushi vs. Lance Archer brings Archer his third loss in a row this tournament, but still he ascends to an even higher level of beast mode. First of all, he has spooky contact lenses now. Second of all, after his match with Tanahashi was iffy, Archer crushes it in the ring here, aided by the fact that his dance partner is one of the best in the game.

Ibushi and Archer decide to do the most insane version of their match possible. Ibushi counters a powerbomb out of the ring into a weird rana out of the ring. Archer just yanks him down from a Golden Triangle. Archer smacks Ibushi’s head with that of a Young Lion as if they are cartoon characters. Ibushi derails the Derailer with an extremely cool double stomp. Archer hits what has to be one of the most badass if not the most badass chokeslam of his career. Archer COUNTERS A KAMIGOYE WITH A KAMIGOYE. If I sent this list of things that happened in this G1 match to myself six months in the past, myself six months in the past would be shocked, and not only because she would have just learned time travel was possible.

Even after all that, the craziest part of this match might be that Archer becomes the first person not to fall to the Kamigoye. (Even though it’s the less powerful version with the kneepad on, Ibushi acknowledges the historic nature of this event backstage.) Ibushi reacting to this and to everything he has time to make a face in reaction to as if he is fighting a real, inhuman monster after seeing it emerge from the worst part of Hell makes this all more fun and buckwild. Archer and Ibushi both come out of this match looking great.

Worst: Monster Mash, Part 2

The second Monster vs. Flippy Guy battle, Bad Luck Fale vs. Will Ospreay, is worse than the previous in every way. If you watched the New Japan Cup match between these two, your expectations were probably already pretty low. For me, they were immediately lowered even further by Chase Owens jumping Ospreay before the bell outside the ring and Fale distracting the referee even though wrestlers are pretty much allowed to do whatever they want to each other outside the ring before the bell without getting in trouble. Iizuka tried to kill Naito with a ladder this winter and everybody saw it and there was no talk of Taichi getting disqualified!

That being said, Owens is also probably still the MVP of this match. The threat of him hitting the junior champ with the Package Piledriver is actually pretty serious because it 1) targets the neck, Ospreay’s weakest point most of the time, 2) is a finisher that wins matches sometimes. Him hitting Ospreay out of the air with a kendo stick is definitely the best kendo stick moment of the match too.

Though the interference spots overall work better than in Fale vs. Ospreay I, neither person legally wrestling in the match delivers a standout performance. Fale looks very gassed very quickly and is sweating buckets bizarrely early in the bout. Ospreay’s superhero moves have looked better elsewhere in this tournament. These things combine to make Fale vs. Ospreay II the most skippable match of night five of A Block.

Both of these guys have more interesting things coming up on the next show though, depending on your perspective. When you say “BritWres” I most of the time say “I would prefer not to watch it,” but Ospreay and Zack Sabre Jr. look solid together in their preview tag and their significant wrestling history over on that other island means they’re definitely going to bring their A Games to their upcoming match.

Fale’s interesting thing coming up has more to do with the booking part of wrestling than the wrestling part of wrestling. The way he gets disqualified in his match with Ospreay is a direct callback to his, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa’s storyline from last year’s G1, the one they decided to run in both blocks at the same time for some reason. Considering this and the ZSJ match, it’s possible the rest of Fale’s matches just have insane endings.

Young Lion Appreciation Section

With much less complicated booking, we have our first Young Lions singles match of the tour as the opener of the July 28 show between Ren Narita and Yuya Uemura. They’re both very fired up and aggressive and their match is a welcome change to these G1 undercards.

It also provides a good moment to mention that all the trainees have been putting in consistently good work this tour. It would be cool to see something like a Tokyo vs. LA Dojo tag or singles match towards the end to highlight these guys a little more on their own, especially for the American guys who audiences in Japan have only seen in these preview tags so far.

More Rematches!

In addition to Ospreay vs. Fale, this A Block show includes two other rematches from this year’s New Japan Cup, Evil vs. Zack Sabre Jr. and Sanada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, and while they’re not terrible, they’re not must-see.

Evil and ZSJ have a well-established dynamic after their rivalry from last fall and this winter. Evil brings the power advantage and Sabre superior technical skills. By now, they’ve worked together enough that when they face off, it’s just a question of who will be one step ahead. Appropriately, it takes a lot of effort for them to find the answer and we see them both digging deep to try and figure out how to win.

They deliver equally strong performances though and both have standout wrestling moments, like when ZSJ counters Evil’s signature ref-assisted kick into some leg submissions and then Evil turns this into his Scorpion Deathlock. This type of thing is more engaging for viewers who have seen both these men wrestle enough to be familiar with their usual moves, the ones that are being countered more effectively than usual, and Evil’s win is more satisfying as part of their series.

As he continues to lose, Sabre’s post-match promos continue to be screaming highlights of the backstage part of this year’s G1. ZSJ has been mathematically eliminated from the tournament and Boris Johnson is the prime minister. Life could not be worse for him. He is not handling it well, and this could play into him playing a spiteful spoiler later in A Block.

Basically, the performer portraying Zack Sabre Jr. continues to handle ZSJ’s disastrous G1 the best way he possibly could. All of his choices tell viewers that the rest of his tournament run can still be interesting and entertaining and maybe even important, though he won’t main-event the Budokan and can’t even earn any title shots.

After starting the tournament with a strong win over ZSJ, Sanada is the third wrestler to be eliminated from the G1 on this show after a loss to Hiroshi Tanahashi. If not that match in Dallas, their New Japan Cup bout is probably my favorite Sanada match of the year, but their G1 rematch is underwhelming. These are two handsome, popular babyfaces doing wrestling moves to each other in a way that isn’t super engaging, but at least they do this in under twenty minutes long and have a hot crowd.

After being heavily pushed as a potential same-age rival for Okada this spring and making it to the New Japan Cup final, Sanada’s lack of kayfabe success in this tournament is odd to see. It’s also odd, to me at least, to see Tanahashi doing so well after it looked like his injuries could really cause problems for him as a performer and a wrestler. They’ll probably play a role in the Ace not making it to the final, but he’s still delivering in the ring.

He is on a cosmic high after his first High Fly Flow win of the tournament, connecting the state of his knee and ability to win matches with his classic finisher to the real-life typhoon situation in the Aichi area. Especially when his knee is a problem for him again the next day, this recalls the pre-Complete Comeback state of his character: a beloved, great wrestler no longer in his prime and kind of delusional about that.

… or maybe not! Maybe Ace Age forever!

In another rematch of a first-time match from this spring, Jeff Cobb gets his win back over Taichi, the guy who body-shamed him and then ended his NEVER Openweight Championship reign in his first defense. Taichi’s handshake mind games at the beginning are fun and while the match drags a bit in the middle, it picks up when they start countering each other’s signature moves. This match was the low-light of its B Block show for me, but it’s not bad at all.

Best: Maybe Don’t Call It Not A Comeback?

Toru Yano vs. Hirooki Goto is the first Chaos vs. Chaos singles match of the tournament (not that Chaos is much more than the branch of the home team with different t-shirts these days, but, you know) and it is very charming. The attempted shirt exchange and the crowd work are fun in a Yano Match way. The finish, a roll-up, still fits into a Yano Match, but it’s Goto sort of beating Yano at his own game in his own way, with his signature roll-up. This made me smile and, more surprisingly, makes Goto smile all the way backstage. Who knows if this is really the start of him turning around again like he says it is, but it’s a nice moment.

Best: The Tough, The Hard, And The Flamboyant

Tomohiro Ishii vs. Juice Robinson is a clash of New Japan’s established most TOUGH AND HARD guy and the New Japan guy trying his hardest to become tougher and harder. It’s tough guys doing tough guy stuff and doing it very well, with moments like Ishii and Juice both falling over at the same time and Juice raising his arms to the crowd after a great headbutt-to-short-arm-lariat that keep it from being overly self-serious. They don’t hate each other, but they are completely committed to the mission of caving each other’s chests in with chops. Also, Ishii jumps off the top rope again! Overall, this match is a well-executed good time.

Best: Fire-Breathing With The Switchblade

Both Jay White and Shingo Takagi have been having really good G1s, apart from White’s dud with Cobb, and their match shows that guys work really well together.

Jay White could credibly win the rest of his G1 matches to the point where Shingo seems pretty doomed going into this one. However, seeing White win here isn’t only more digestible than usual after we’ve seen him get his ass handed to him three times in a row, but because it feels like we see him grow as a wrestler in order to figure out how to do it. Besides the TTO temporary submission finisher that Kevin Kelly mentions on commentary, when we usually see White innovate in order to win, that innovation is a new cheating tactic. But here, while he does cheat or try to cheat a lot, he ultimately gets the win after a new set-up for the Blade Runner, a brainbuster variation.

Of course, another important part of why this match is so good is how Takagi pushes White to this point. When he has somebody scouted, he looks one of the smartest wrestlers on the roster. (This is tied to him clearly being a smart performer; he’s so good at not just doing signature moves, but building to them in a way that makes them more exciting. That’s at least half of why Made In Japan is so cool.)

When we’re so used to seeing White out-prepare and psych out other New Japan wrestlers, it’s cool to see moments like Takagi taking advantage of White’s “counter” where he just lies on the ground by turning it into a wheelbarrow suplex and responding to him trying to hang out in the corner with a buckle-bomb. The ratio of wrestling-to-shenanigans being kept in check in this match is definitely helped by Takagi being extremely good at responding to shenanigans. And to top this match off, the crowd gets more and more into it as it goes along.

In addition to how to make White more watchable, the moral of the story is please let’s get Takagi in a singles title picture after this tournament!

Mostly Best: Saving Face, Slapping Faces

While there were a bunch of good and entertaining matches on the ninth and tenth nights of G1 Climax 29, there was only one that you could point at even before it happened and call historically important. That was Kenta vs. Kazuchika Okada, and that’s how they played that their G1 match.

A cool thing about Kenta in this G1 is how there continues to be a tension in the crowd for all of his matches. That shows up here early on, audible after Kenta slaps Okada in the face instead of cleanly breaking on the ropes. When a crowd at a New Japan show in Japan cheers for Kenta vs. a New Japan Guy, it has the opposite energy of the “Both these guys!” chant Kenta and Ibushi got in Dallas.

Something that’s helped Kenta in this G1 and helps his presentation in this match is that he’s not here to win over the people who want him to lose, but just to win in front of them. Early in this match, he calls for Okada to strike him, then dodges and takes him down instead. He’s going to prove himself by winning, not necessarily by proving his fighting spirit to Okada and the fans.

Though the wrestling and presentation of this match keep it interesting overall, this isn’t either wrestler’s best work, though they are two of the best. For example, while Kenta’s kicks look great and that double stomp to Okada over the barricade looks like death, some of the set-ups for Kenta’s signature moves look very obvious, slow and not that organic. Ultimately, it works out, but it’s not the greatest match for either of these two wrestlers who are deservedly called two of the greatest of the modern era.


Though I guessed New Japan might give Kenta a title shot through this match, I think his loss here works well for both him and Okada. Rather than Kenta speeding to the IWGP Heavyweight Championship picture as well as the G1 right after arriving in New Japan, he meets this roadblock on his journey back to the top. It fits how we can see that he isn’t just 00’s Kenta again, miraculously restored by leaving WWE. More than usual with New Japan, I can’t guess at all what they’re going to do with Kenta, but I’m also interested in finding out.

Also, Okada saves face for New Japan against a guy who worked for that big American company! Now it’s up to Naito to do the same thing the following with a guy who was a bigger star in that big American company so everyone can rest easy!

Two Wild & Crazy Guys

The preview tag match for Tetsuya Naito vs. Jon Moxley shows the potential upsides and downsides of their upcoming singles match. The biggest upside is that Naito working against a guy who gets so easily worked up about everything means he gets to be the most on his tranquilo-troll bullshit and it’s very funny. The biggest downside is how weak some of Moxley’s moves look, especially his punches and stomps, without the extra objects and theatrics of his previous NJPW matches to distract from them, without him being in full control of the style of the match.

The issue with this dynamic and ultimately Naito vs. Moxley is epitomized beforehand by the title of the NJPW English YouTube channel’s video of their preview tag’s backstage promos, “When Mox calls Naito crazy… That’s saying something.” Like this title, nothing about their match feels credibly badass or dangerous besides some of Naito’s bumps. So many big Naito singles matches have been more brutal than this, helped by the fact that other wrestlers’ offense for which he has bumped insanely has been more credible. The Purveyor of Violence tries to convincingly purvey violence without tables and without zeroing in on one body part, and it really doesn’t feel violent at all.

A moment actually in the match that sums up how much tamer it is than advertised, in addition to all of Moxley’s brawling stuff, is when he and Naito bite each other. Two men biting each other in a wrestling match should either be really intense or funny and this just feels like another thing that happens.

Maybe We Should Call It “S Block” For “Stressful Block” Hahahahaha

After Mox vs. Naito, the official question about Jon Moxley in this G1 becomes “What will it take to stop him?” The answers to that are 1) Naito sure would have been cool!, 2) New Japan have some self-respect? and 3) Who really cares? He doesn’t work here. He wasn’t even able to work the opening night of the tournament because of how much he doesn’t work here!

A fair amount of people are just watching the G1 because of the presence of Jon Moxley and to them, he is the default main character of the tournament. I hope these people are having fun watching expanding their wrestling horizons! But for people who watch New Japan at all regularly, the Moxley situation was weird to begin with and has now become weird in kind of a stressful way.

Moxley coming to New Japan and immediately winning a championship was weird and did not at all fit the regular timeline in which wrestlers accomplish things in NJPW. Sure, AJ Styles won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship really quickly, but it didn’t seem like there was a hard end date on his regular involvement with the company (until he signed with WWE much later.) However, this wasn’t that concerning because Moxley won the United States Championship, which is one of the least important championships in NJPW and was only created as a premise for a 2017 tournament in the U.S. It’s been used to do some really good stuff for the careers of [non-Japanese] wrestlers on the rise (Kenny Omega, Juice Robinson, Jay White), but it was created to pander to American fans and get international attention anyway. Mox winning it was kind in the spirit of the thing.

While there are definitely people who take the G1 Climax way too seriously, it does feel about a million times more important in NJPW and the wrestling world than the U.S. title. Main-eventing the Tokyo Dome on January 4 is still a huge deal even after they devalued it a little by calling those Chris Jericho matches that were definitely semi-main events half of double main-events because Chris Jericho. Winning the G1 to get there is a huge deal. Likewise, being a G1 finalist is a huge deal. Topping a G1 block signifies that a wrestler is one of the best of the best in New Japan Pro Wrestling, emphasis on in New Japan Pro Wrestling.

There are typically spots on the Wrestle Kingdom card for wrestlers from other promotions or, in the past, people from the MMA world, but being a G1 finalist has not been something NJPW awards to short-term guest stars because they’re famous in America. What makes the name “G1 Climax” have any gravitas is not that it has been the equivalent of “Eat, Pray, Love” for people who had a bad time in WWE. It feels like it shouldn’t be that even more for someone who not only won’t be around much in the future, but whose participation in the G1 is being acknowledged in AEW kayfabe as Moxley spending time in Japan in order to prepare for his All Out match with Kenny Omega. (Currently, neither of these companies who recognize a lot of other companies have officially recognized each other onscreen.)

Of course, it’s still mathematically possible that Moxley doesn’t go to the G1 final, but people who aren’t just tuning in to New Japan for Moxley thinking he could aren’t thinking is a possibility because of points alone. They’re thinking it because of a lack of faith in the promotion’s creative direction, especially when it comes to how they navigate their international expansion. While there have been successes, there have also been so many bizarre developments, from the case of the handling of the New Beginning in USA tour to how all the 2018 NJPW shows in America were dominated by people who then left to start another company, to old man Jericho being able to take out all of L.I.J. with a chair to the Young Bucks skipping the World Tag League line to convolutedly get a title match at Wrestle Kingdom 13, and more.

The biggest reason to think NJPW might not change what it signifies to be a G1 finalist in order to get a former WWE everything-champion in the final might be that they could put him in a U.S. title match on the same show with just as much notice. Another reason, if you’re familiar with how New Japan typically schedules tournaments and are really trying to predict the G1 out to the end, is because Moxley isn’t in the main event of the last night of B Block and NJPW’s block winners are almost always in the main event of the last night of block action.

With all that being said, Moxley winning B Block absolutely is not a given! This is all more of a reflection on this one aspect of present-day NJPW than it is a prediction of anything. Moxley has matches left with Toru Yano, Jay White, Juice Robinson, and Hirooki Goto. He needs to lose all of them and three of them look very losable. Now Goto, who is known for the opposite of delivering in high-pressure situations, just needs delivers in this high-pressure situation!

As we continue through the sweaty midsection of the G1 Climax, here are the win/loss records and points and title shots earned so far:

A Block points:

10 points – 5-0 – Kazuchika Okada
8 points – 4-1 – Kenta
6 points – 3-2 – Evil, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi
4 points – 2-2 – Lance Archer, Will Ospreay
2 points – 1-4 – Bad Luck Fale, Sanada, Zack Sabre Jr.

B Block points:

10 points – 5-0 – Jon Moxley
6 points – 3-2 – Juice Robinson, Tomohiro Ishii
4 points – 2-3 – Hirooki Goto, Jay White, Jeff Cobb, Shingo Takagi, Taichi, Tetsuya Naito, Toru Yano

Title shots:

RevPro British Heavyweight Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi, Sanada, Kazuchika Okada, Evil
NEVER Openweight Championship: Jon Moxley, Tetsuya Naito
IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Toru Yano, Taichi, Jon Moxley

I’ll see you back here soon to talk about this week’s other G1 shows.